Billions in federal, state, and local broadband funding efforts are getting deployed to help close the nation’s digital divide. Rick Cimerman is vice president of state affairs for NCTA, the Internet and Television Association. He says new regulations from the Federal Communications Commission will harm broadband deployment to rural communities.
He says, “The FCC and the government are proposing some new rules and regulations that may make it more difficult for us to invest. It’s already a marginal situation as to whether we invest. That’s why the subsidy is necessary. There are some proposed labor rules, possible rate regulation, and a number of factors that make it a marginal call to begin with. But now, the FCC is proposing to institute something known as net neutrality, which governs every aspect of our vision of internet service.”
He talks about the bigger picture in closing the broadband gap. Cimerman says, “The bigger picture is that it’s sort of a regulatory agency run amok, really trying to expand its power and control the way that the private entities and private markets serve broadband out in America. Do we go there in the first place? The government is trying to change the economics by giving subsidies to go there, but then they’re making it more difficult by potentially imposing all sorts of new rules and requirements, and they might blow this once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring internet to all.”
Cimerman says the FCC needs to focus more on removing roadblocks to deployment. He says, “What they can do is remove roadblocks to deployment. One of the things that makes it more expensive to deploy broadband are things like certain permitting requirements, pole attachment rules and requirements, and we’ve got to attach to those poles. In some cases, it is costly, and the FCC can make it easier. So, there are many ways that they can sort of remove regulatory barriers or also these physical barriers, if you will.”
State leaders can take common-sense steps to help according to Cimerman. “They can look at their Highway Department, look at permitting issues and pole attachment issues as well, but it’s also oversight of their respective broadband offices that are in charge of distributing this federal money to ensure responsible spending. This is not just a construction project. This is an ongoing relationship between a community and an Internet service provider. And so, we have to look at the long-term engagement, look at engaging experienced trusted providers as we are folks that have ties to the local community. And states have an important role in ensuring that the money is distributed in a way that levels the playing field but brings the expertise of existing providers to bear.”
Cimerman says the opportunity to connect all of America is there now. Success depends on removing roadblocks to broadband deployment, not adding more of them. For more information, go to ncta.com.